Hearing that you have an STI can be scary and shocking. A flurry of questions and concerns could be going through your mind: How did this happen? Who gave it to you? Did you give it to anyone else? What now? Take a moment for some deep breaths. You are not a bad, or “dirty” person, for having an STI. The fact is that anyone who’s sexually active is at risk of contracting an infection. Plus, you are in good company, with over two million reported cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2017 alone. Be kind to yourself and know that your value is not determined by your STI in any capacity.
One of the most stressful next steps can be figuring out how to tell a partner you have an STI. If you test positive for an STI it is your responsibility – and in some states your legal obligation – to tell all sexual contacts that may be at risk. Even if you have taken precautions to limit the risk of transmission, such as wearing a condom or taking antiretroviral therapy, it should still be completely up to your partner(s) to choose what level of risk they are comfortable taking with their body.
It’s hard to know how to start the conversation and difficult to predict how others will react to your diagnosis. You can, and should, allow yourself some time process your diagnosis before you address it with a partner. But make sure you’re contacting them as quickly as you’re comfortable with so that they can access care quickly if necessary. When you do feel ready, follow this guideline to have a productive conversation with your partner(s):
1. Get the Information
Before talking to a partner, you want to make sure you have all the important information so you can answer any questions that arise and identify any misconceptions they may have. There are many different sources you can access for accurate information surrounding sexual health. For starters, your medical provider is a great resource, and will be able to tell you what treatment you, and your partner(s), may need. In some states, your clinician can even write a prescription for partners’ chlamydia or gonorrhea treatment without even seeing them. This process is called “expedited partner treatment” and allows medical professionals to curb outbreaks by treating people who are highly likely to be infected.
binx health also provides great resources that you can access from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our sexual health counselors are happy to answer any questions you may have about sexual health via chat, email, or over the phone. If you’d rather not talk to a person, we also have many helpful articles that you can find right here on our site. After discussing with your healthcare provider, sometimes reading through the information is the easiest way to get your answers.
2. Talk it out
After you have gathered your intel and feel prepared for your conversation, find the time to sit down with your partner(s). This is a sensitive and important conversation so it’s worth thinking about where you want to meet. Find a place where you feel safe and can access an exit easily should you feel the need to quickly remove yourself from the conversation. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in-person or you’re unable to meet in-person, schedule a time for a phone call so you can talk it out.
3. You’re in this Together
Be kind to one another. Just as you were, your partner(s) could be shocked, confused, or hurt. Be open and listen. The infection affects both of you. Try not to get hung up on who gave what to whom because it often isn’t clear. For instance, infections can be contagious over long periods of time without any symptoms. This means that it’s possible that one of you contracted the infection before beginning the relationship. So, if one of you tested positive for an STI, it does not necessarily imply someone “cheated.” One of you could easily have an infection from a previous sexual contact. No one wants to pass along an STI, and it’s not done on purpose, so lead with empathy and refrain from blame.
4. Keep Communicating
After talking, you will both likely have more questions. It’s a lot to process. Once the initial shock is over, you may want to revisit some educational resources. Talking to our sexual health counselors, or setting up an appointment with a clinician could be a good first step. Many clinicians set up a follow-up appointment for a few days after getting the diagnosis, as they understand this is an emotional and confusing topic. Keep communicating with one another and being supportive.
5. Continue to Get Tested Regularly
Taking the time to get regularly tested can seem overwhelming, but it is an important part of staying healthy. binx is here to help make this process as stress-free and convenient as possible.
Remember that regardless of how the conversation goes, you are doing the right thing by telling sexual partners about your diagnosis. The only wrong way to handle telling a partner about your STI is to not tell them at all. Check out this article on maneuvering dating with an STI for more tips on keeping your sex life happy and healthy.
If you are unsure whether or not you have an STI, reading “How do you know if you have an STI?” is a good place to start. Looking for convenient, discreet, at-home STI Testing? Take our simple quiz to find the right test for you.